The EU supports hydrogen-fueled trains, a prototype until 2024

The EU supports hydrogen-fueled trains, a prototype until 2024
photo: Archives/CIVIA rail car
13 / 11 / 2020

The European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Commission (FCH and JU) has awarded a € 10 million grant to a consortium FCH2RAIL. The money is intended to finance the design, development and testing of a hydrogen fuel train. The project would contribute to the European funding plan (H2020).

A hydrogen fuel train in the EU would be a unique prototype. In addition to its technical parameters, its design will also be proposed. It is necessary to finance all concepts from the grant, as well as the testing, which should end with the approval of the entire project. The following companies are members of the FCH2RAIL consortium: CAF, DLR, Renfe, Toyota Motor Europe, Adif, IP, CNH2 and Faiveley Stemmann Technik.

By the end of this year, the contractual relations between the members of the consortium that are currently being processed should be resolved. The project itself should start in 2021 and last approximately 4 years. It is estimated that this project will draw up to 14 million euros of subsidies. About 70% of this amount should be financed through European funds.

The aim of the project is to create a bi-mode railway vehicle that would combine the advantages of hydrogen fuel cells and traction connection. This means that the hydrogen mode would be used combinedly as hybrid outside the electrified part of the line. Where it would be possible to use an overhead contact line, the car would use electricity. The vehicle should have a special generator that uses hydrogen cells and LTO batteries. The heat generated could be used to increase the performance of the trainset.

The project to develop a hydrogen railway vehicle includes work on three CIVIA cars, which should be used for testing. So far, it is determined that the train will be tested in three countries, while so far Spain and Portugal have been selected. A third country has not yet been identified. It is also necessary to determine the qualification levels of the test.

Another part of the project is also devoted to legislation. European committees must be involved in railway standardization and initiate processes to legislate for the involvement of the hybrid type of train in service. Many regulations and existing standards need to be updated to make the integration possible.

However, hydrogen-fueled trains will not yet become a regular part of our lives. The reason is their great financial demands. The process of integrating such trains into the railway infrastructure can easily take decades.

At present, only about half of the railways in the EU are electrified. This means that only half of the railways in the Member States meet the current environmental requirements for the operation of rolling stock. On the other half, rail vehicles with diesel engines are used. This is very unecological.

That's why many companies are looking for technologies that allow different types of rail vehicle engines to be combined to make transportation more environmentally friendly. For example, we wrote about the combination of an electric motor with a diesel engine, where if a rail vehicle is off the electrified track, it uses a diesel engine. If it is on an electrified line, it switches to electric mode. With a hydrogen-powered train, it's actually similar but much more environmentally friendly. Where other trains use diesel, hydrogen would be used without emissions. Not only emissions but also noise would be notably reduced.

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